At 48 years old.
[Posted by Karl]
Rich Santorum surges to a 38-23% national lead over Mitt Romney in the latest PPP poll. Indeed, “Santorum gets to 50% in the Newt free field to 28% for Romney and 15% for Paul.” (Of course, the field is not Newtless… yet.) Per usual, I am inclined to throw cold water on momentary buzz, in this case the excitement over discovering a potential consensus NotRomney.
Most would say that Santorum’s most surprising and impressive win to date was the Colorado caucus. Although weather and Romney’s overconfidence may have been factors in that win, there were likely deeper factors at work there. However, it is not clear those factors would benefit the GOP in a general election.
Seth Masket’s statistical breakdown of the Colorado win confirms a fair amount of the conventional wisdom about Santorum’s victory there, i.e., he won conservatives and his voters were more enthusiastic. But another graph shows another result that is perhaps not unexpected, but telling:
Romney’s caucus vote correlates highly with the 2010 primary vote for U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton. Norton, you may recall, was the candidate with the solid resume, lots of insider support, and a huge monetary advantage whom the activist base nonetheless didn’t like, and she lost to a Tea Party-backed conservative. Sound familiar?
Indeed it does. Norton lost to Ken Buck, who lost in the general election. That loss is generally attributed to Buck’s comments on social issues like abortion and homosexuality, not to mention what was perceived as a gender-based attack on Norton herself.
Team Obama has pretty openly declared that one of its two playbooks would be to exploit social issues in hopes of winning Western swing states like Colorado and Nevada (where Sharron Angle similarly lost in 2010). Santorum has an expanding library of exploitable quotations on social issues and consistently criticizes the more libertarian factions of the party. In the remaining GOP field, there may be no candidate who more strongly plays into this Democrat strategy.
However, lest you think I am implicitly shilling for Romney by dumping on Santorum, note that Obama’s other playbook (2004 over 2010) is based on defining Romney as an inauthentic plutocrat, in hopes of holding the Rust Belt, including Ohio. The latest Rasmussen poll has Santorum as the better candidate against Obama. The latest Susquehanna poll has Romney and Santorum in a dead heat in Pennsylvania, but Romney as the marginally better candidate against Obama (which may change quickly if Santorum continues to surge). And PPP may well show the same surge in Michigan (although a GOP win there in November still strikes me as a long shot, regardless of candidate).
This is why a growing regional divide among the right — and having a candidate with broad appeal to more than one region, especially in a general election — matters.